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Quick Click: 4 Ways to Keep Little Hands Clean

Teach the most important hygiene habit of all: Proper handwashing!

<i>Germs Make Me Sick</i>, by Melvin Berger, helps kids learn about hygiene.
Germs Make Me Sick, by Melvin Berger, helps kids learn about hygiene.

Because small children are natural, effective, and indiscriminate germ spreaders, keeping them healthy requires diligence. The single most important disease-prevention strategy is hand-washing. Not fingertip washing, but whole-hand washing, back and front. Germs and viruses like all the hiding places on our hands — between fingers, under nails, and around cuticles. Model frequent, thorough hand washing. The following suggestions will help you teach your child to take an active role in preventing the spread of germs.

  1. Read the book Germs Make Me Sick to help reinforce the importance of hand-washing.

  2. Make sure handwashing supplies are easily accessible: clean towels; liquid soap, somewhat diluted for easy sudsing and rinsing; and nonallergenic hand lotion, to keep skin moisturized so it's less likely to crack and harbor germs.

  3. Make tissues readily available for runny noses and sneezing. Encourage your child to use his upper arm to catch coughs, rather than his hands, and to wash his hands after using tissues.

  4. Wash toys together periodically. Place plastic and wooden toys in the kitchen sink or bathtub and have a good time cleaning them off.

About the Author

Mary S. Rivkin, PhD, chair of the education department at the University of Maryland, is author of The Great Outdoors: Restoring Children's Rights to Play Outside (NAEYC, 1995) is the coauthor of Science Experiences for the Early Childhood Years.

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